It would behoove the Philadelphia 76ers to use Al Horford in the role of a spot up shooter next season to make sure that the paint is open as much as possible
There have been some questions around the league about how the Philadelphia 76ers plan to use Al Horford next season. Michael Pina of SBNation wrote an article earlier this month speculating on how the team will use him:
Horford is one of those players who lets a coaching staff pad their playbook. He can initiate from the top of the key, slingshot teammates towards the basket off a dribble handoff, generate gravitational pull with a screen on the weakside, and draw two defenders in multiple situations, be it on a deep post-up, short roll, or pick-and-pop. (Don’t be shocked if Horford moonlights as the ball-handler with Joel Embiid or even Ben Simmons setting a pick.)
However, one can argue that the 76ers should use Al Horford as a spot-up shooter next season to preserve floor spacing. This is because the post up has become a key component of Brett Brown’s offensive system. Philadelphia has been in the top 5 in post-up possessions per game for the past two seasons averaging 11.55 per game (10.8 +12.3)/2.
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A post up in Brett Brown‘s system usually entails that one player establishes post up position on the mid to low block with at least three of his teammates standing behind the 3-point line in role of spot-up shooters.
A prime example of this was the last teammate would either stand in the dunker spot on the other side of the court or behind the 3-point line in the role of a shooter like the rest of his teammates.
A prime example of this was early in the first quarter of Game 2 of their first-round playoff against the Brooklyn Nets. Ben Simmons dribbled the basketball up the left side of the court until he reached the three-point line and passed it to Tobias Harris who had established post position on the left mid-block.
Once Tobias received the ball, he immediately performed a face up to analyze the defense to determine what he should do next. During this process, he saw that Ben Simmons was standing in the dunker spot on the right side of the court.
Ben’s placement enabled his defender, Rodions Kurucs, to spend most of the possession standing in the paint as he wanted to eliminate the possibility of Tobias attacking the basket and passing the ball to Simmons for an easy layup or dunk.
Unfortunately for Tobias, Rodions Kurucs was not the only player blocking his path to the basket as Jarrett Allen was also standing in the paint. Joel Embiid is considered to be a below-average shooter as he has shot 31.5 percent from behind the arc (making 1.1 3’s in 3.5 attempts per game) in three seasons.
Joel’s 3-point percentage is 4.3 percent below the league average [(35.8 + 36.1 + 35.5)/3 = 35.8] during that span. Consequently, Brooklyn was not concerned about him shooting a three-pointer as it is a low efficient shot for him.
This defensive scheme usually leads to a player kicking the ball to the perimeter for the wide-open three. Sadly, Philadelphia only had one above-average shooter playing off the basketball in J.J. Redick, and he was tightly guarded by Joe Harris.
If Brett Brown were to post up Al Horford next season, he would have to get past two or three defenders in the paint to score. This is because opposing teams don’t respect Ben and Joel’s ability to make a 3-pointer consistently.
Therefore, it would behoove the 76ers to use Al Horford in the role of a spot up shooter next season to make sure that the paint is open as much as possible. Al has a career 3-point shooting percentage of 36.8 percent (making 0.5 3’s in 1.3 attempts per game) in 12 seasons.
This is 1.1 percent better than the league average [(36.2 + 36.7 + 35.5 + 35.8 + 34.9 +35.9 + 36 + 35 + 35.4 +35.8 + 36.1 + 35.5)/12 = 35.7] during that span. His above average shooting lessens the likelihood of three players being in the paint at the same time because the opposing team knows that he can make an open 3 more consistently.
A potential counter-argument to this would be to use him in dribble handoff sequences next season. Unfortunately, the team doesn’t have a perimeter player on the current roster who is used to a dribble handoff on a consistent basis.
This is because J.J. Redick (who is no longer on the roster) averaged 4.4 dribble handoffs per game [(3.6 + 5.2)/2] in two seasons with Philadelphia. J.J. accounted for 50.87 percent of the team’s dribble handoffs as they averaged 8.65 per game [(7.8 + 9.5)/2].
In conclusion, the only way for the Philadelphia 76ers to have some semblance of floor spacing is to use Al Horford as a spot up shooter.
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